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The Link Between Mental Illness and Homelessness

Exactly what is the link between homelessness and mental illness? It is projected that about thirty percent of homeless people are afflicted with some kind of serious psychological medical condition. What kinds of issues do the other seventy percent suffer from?

The Link Between Mental Illness and Homelessness

Studies have found that there is a relationship between homelessness and mental illness around the world. Many individuals and families that live on the street, suffer from psychological problems, as well as substance abuse problems. In America, it is estimated that up to one half of the homeless do have some type of mental illness, and about a quarter suffer from a serious mental health condition. Being homeless can exacerbate, not only an individual's physical health, but also their mental health.

Some people who never have had a mental illness before may find that they suffer from one, like depression, once they become homeless. In some circumstances, a mentally ill person may not even realize they suffer from the condition and therefore, cannot get the help they need until they receive health care. In other words, they do not have clear and rational understanding of how serious their mental problem actually is. Not getting the proper mental health care that is needed to treat a mental health issue can often result in job less which may result in the person becoming homeless.

Many mental health issues can be treated with medication. But one of the problems with treating the mentally ill who are homeless is getting them to take their prescribed medication properly. Many forget to take their medication, do not like the side affects so they quit taking it, or may lose it because they do not have a permanent home and could be living at a shelter. Frequently, the mental ill on the streets do not know where to get the help they need or at times, just simply do not ask for help.

Getting Medicaid health care in the United States requires proper identification and lots of paperwork. This in itself is a complicated task for many, not just the homeless. Another problem is lack of resources, which seems to be prevalent in some cities. The bottom line is, more advocates for the homeless that are mental ill are needed. Emergency shelters are wonderful for helping the homeless and those in need, but they do not provide a long term solution for solving the homeless issue.

Research has shown that when some mentally ill individuals are treated in supportive housing, like a group home, their mental health condition improves. There are some things that can be done to help the homeless that suffer from mental illness. More supportive housing that is permanent, along with mental health supportive services are needed to address the problems that face the homeless that suffer with mental illness. It is very difficult to reach all those who need social services and medical care, but it is something all communities should strive to improve for all their citizens.

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Image Copyright: Rhys Asplundh
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhysasplundh/
Last Updated: 01-17-2013
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